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Insider: January 10, 2020

- Historical Preservation, a la Library of Congress - One IP thing - Follow-up on Spotify's SAI... and more!

Historical Preservation. Seems like the Library of Congress — which I learned from a quick Wiki dip is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States — has begun reaching out to a few podcasts for inclusion into its collection. Among them, or at least based on the self-indicated ones I was able to spot off Twitter: 99% Invisible, The Memory Palace, and Welcome to Night Vale. I’m pretty sure there’s a bunch more, so feel free to hit me up if you’re one of those contacted as well. Or not, if you don’t want to jinx anything or whatever.

In any case, I’m in the midst of arranging a conversation with the person managing the effort, and will hopefully have something interesting on the whole process soon.

Smart speaker study. Earlier this week, NPR and Edison Research rolled out the latest edition — i.e. the ~Winter Edition~, pegged to Q4 2019 —of its smart audio report, and the head-lining takeaway shouldn’t be all that surprising: smart speaker growth continues apace.

The big data point: one in four US adults now own a smart speaker (24%). That’s up from 21% in December 2018, and up from 18% in December 2017. Which is to say, the growth rate appears to be steady-ish, with the same three percentage point bump between the December 2018-2019 period and the December 2017-2018 period. Also worth noting from the report: the number of smart speakers in US household grew by 135% over the past two years.

Now, for our purposes: does the smart speaker stuff matter for podcasting? Especially since smart speakers are thought to have not driven much podcast listening, historically speaking. It does matter, of course, for a few reasons:

(1) Increased smart speaker usage appears to translate to increased audio consumption overall, so it’s relevant as a class-wide matter;

(2) There have been some marginal efforts to increase ease of podcast consumption on smart speaker devices; and

(3) Smart speakers are expressly relevant for audio streaming platforms, and as more platforms get involved with podcasts, you can probably guess the smart speaker-podcast gap may well tighten.

One IP thing. Caroline wrote briefly about Luminary-related comings and goings in yesterday’s issue, but I wanted to flag one other project because there’s an interesting wrinkle about it. In May, the paid audio platform will launch a show called Corner Wolves, described as a “scripted thriller podcast” meant to be an associated media product that will be doing the world-building and early audience development work for an upcoming video game project (of the same name) that’s still in development.

All of which is to say: the podcast-IP relationship can take more than a few forms and be made to carry out more than a few purposes, and this is relatively unique examples of that.

For those interested, the podcast is being penned by Evan Narcisse — whose writing at Kotaku I used to love, and nowadays can be found writing comics and a number of other things — and production is being handled by Matt Raz of the Loud Speakers Network. Here’s the Hollywood Reporter with a more general write-up.

I should note that this isn’t necessarily the first time we’re seeing a podcast being used as a further world-building project for other media. Last fall, Netflix rolled out a scripted podcast called “The Only Podcast Left” that’s set in the world of the Netflix Original series “Daybreak.” I’ve consumed neither TOPL or Daybreak, because we live in times of Extreme Peak Content, but I presume somebody out there likes the show and attributes value to their Netflix subscription, and I imagine the podcast comes as a pleasure to that somebody as well.

Revolving Door. James T. Green — who you should probably be following closely — is joining Transmitter Media as a producer, starting later this month. He was mostly recently at Gimlet Creative. Green should also be recognized for the most effective announcement tweet since the dawn of the post-Millennial. (What do they call them? Gen-Z’s? Ok, boomer.)

In case this means anything to you… From Apple’s corporate blog: “Apple Podcasts offers free audio stories that entertain, inform and inspire, and now delivers listeners over 800,000 shows in 155 countries on more devices than ever before.”

If we’re doing the whole Apple v Spotify thing, here’s the latter’s corporate note: “There are now over 500,000 podcasts on Spotify, available in over 75 countries and territories, on iOS and Android, web browsers, smart speakers, gaming consoles, smart TVs, and just about everywhere else.”

Does the overall number of distributed podcasts matter, in the larger sense of things? (Especially if you consider the additional nuance of active vs. inactive pods.) I’ll leave that up to you. (But for me, no, not really.)

Meanwhile, in the UK…

(1) Samira Ahmed, who sued the BBC claiming sex discrimination over pay, has won her case. Here’s The Guardian on the development.

(2) Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen covered the Reuters Institute’s report surveying 2020 plans and assessments for hundreds of newsrooms across the globe. The finding most relevant to us: expect more international news podcasts — be they daily, round-table, or narrative — in the year to come.

Follow-up on Spotify’s SAI: In case you missed the extra newsletter that went out on Wednesday about Spotify’s official push into podcast ad technology, here it is. I’d like to add, though: I largely framed the write-up within the context of how this might affect the large-scale power dynamics of the podcast ecosystem, with specific emphasis on advertisers and publishers.

But it’s also worth noting that there are many more constituents, some obvious and others not, who will be watching closely. Among them: media buying agencies (like Veritone One), podcast hosting platforms, and competing music organizations, whether it’s the streaming services or the big labels. Again, big picture: this isn’t a strictly podcasting matter. A stronger podcast position for Spotify means a stronger Spotify, which holds competitive significance for entities like Apple Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, Amazon Music, Sony-Warner-Universal, etc. etc.